Best Hank Williams Songs: 20 Country Classics
The breathtaking depth of the country star’s catalog means that distilling his finest work into a single playlist is a tall order.
The breathtaking depth of Hank Williams’ catalog means that distilling his best songs into a single playlist of 20 tunes is a tall order, such was the mark he left as one of the true pioneers of country music.
A legend in six years
Williams paid his dues as a country hopeful for several years before making his studio debut, firstly for the Sterling label, and then at the label where he made such an indelible mark, MGM Records. That late breakthrough, and his untimely demise from alcohol and drug abuse at the criminally early age of 29, meant that Williams’ recording career lasted for less than six years.
Listen to the best Hank Williams songs on Spotify.
Williams was especially influenced in his early years by one of the great country stars of the 1940s, Roy Acuff. (He later joked that because there already was a Roy Acuff, he started singing like Hank Williams.) But he could also be quite dismissive about any categorization of his style. “I don’t know what you mean by country music,” he once said. “I just make music the way I know how.”
Our playlist of Hank Williams’ best songs begins with one of his early sides for Sterling, “Honky Tonkin’,” before launching into his first country chart success from 1947, the rousing “Move It On Over.” There are nine No.1 country hits in this list of songs, tunes that have attracted hundreds of cover versions from notable names in pop, rock, and R&B.
Just a few examples: “Jambalaya (On The Bayou),” which topped the country chart for Hank in 1952, became a staple for the Carpenters a generation later; “Lovesick Blues” was cut by everyone from Patsy Cline to Merle Haggard and was a UK No. 1 for Frank Ifield; and the heartbreaking “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” became associated with recording giants from Johnny Cash to Little Richard. The list goes on, from “Cold, Cold Heart” to “There’s A Tear In My Beer.”
The playlist concludes with a song written and recorded with a degree of black humor by Williams late in 1952, and which had started its chart climb just before he passed away on New Year’s Day, 1953. “I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive” was not just darkly prophetic, it typified the combination of smart, searing lyrics, yearning vocals, and superb playing that made Hank Williams an absolute musical one-off.
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October 17, 2015 at 11:23 pm
Hank Williams Sr. is my very favorite country artist of all time . They just don’t get no more country than him . I love all of his songs . I am always Cranking me up some Hank to listen to and enjoy .
October 18, 2015 at 2:24 am
Hank was one of the best there was , when people sing his songs they need to sing it the way that he wrote it,I was only 4 when he died but I have love his music to this day I am 66 now
October 18, 2015 at 3:38 am
Seeing Hank in person buying his song book and his group all autographing it was a memory of all time,I am almost 81 now and still know the tunes and a lot of the words of most of his songs.
November 18, 2015 at 12:31 pm
wow, Harvey- great stuff
November 18, 2015 at 12:33 pm
let me know if you ever want to pass on the song book. I,for one, am very interested!
October 18, 2015 at 11:13 am
The King of Country Music. May he rest in peace.
October 18, 2015 at 2:25 pm
hank Williams was the greatest singer and song writer that ever lived ,there is no one that comes close to him REST IN PEACE HANK .
October 18, 2015 at 6:20 pm
a friend of mine in p.e.i. sent me this site and i must admit its a lot of good music .
although i dont add anything or request anything i still like to hear the music .
now i dont know where all these artists are from but i do know we have a lot of great talent here in canada which hardly ever gets heard.
i myself just like to listen to the country classics i think this is the best music ever not like the artists that call themselves country today and all sound the same either you are country or you or your not .
please dont call this stuff they play today country because its not.
also if you have the internet you might want to listen to radio station KTKN or HPR1 where they do play country music as it should be also you might want to listen to a show by tom wadle who plays on KTNK IF ITS REAL COUNTRY YOU WANT TO HEAR..
November 18, 2015 at 11:58 pm
Hi! I just read your post from October 18th. That sounds like a really good radio show. Did you mean KTKN or KTNK?
October 19, 2015 at 1:38 am
the best college couldn t teach what HANK learned from tee tot the old colored street singer in GEORGANA OR GREENVILLE ALABAMA and the hard knocks he lived thru growing up
October 19, 2015 at 7:16 pm
may you never be alone like me, or i coul’d never be a shame of you, or the man whiit broken heart, As luke)
November 18, 2015 at 12:44 am
I saw the light.
November 18, 2015 at 2:19 am
The Log Train
Weary Blues from Waiting
Thy Burdens Are Greater than Mine
November 18, 2015 at 12:30 pm
sooo wrong. Where is Ramblin’ Man????? Best song of Hank. Best song ever. Full stop.
November 25, 2015 at 12:33 am
Hank was one of the best….I was 9 or 10 when I first heard him on WSM one night singing Love Sick Blues….I was hooked. I learned every song he wrote and was lucky enough to be able to sing them on stage years later. I was in Montgomery heading to Louisiana and was hoping if time allowed to visit his grave site. Unfortunately I was unable to stop and was upset that I couldn’t pay my respects to the man I treasured so dearly.
December 4, 2015 at 12:22 am
The best Ahead of his time, I can relate to so many of his songs. Can listen to him all day want to know more and more about him
WILLA M. BASYE
December 27, 2015 at 10:38 pm
I’VE LOVED HANK WILLIAMS MUSIC SINCE I WAS A YOUNG GIRL. I WON HIS 78RPM ON A RADIO SHOW IN ST.LOUIS MO. OF ” LOVE SICK BLUES ”. I HAVE A ALBUM OF HIS GREATIEST HITS I TREASURE. I ALSO HAVE A CD OF HANK WILLIAMS JR. GREATEST HITS WICH I LOVE TO LOSTEN TOO IN MY CAR.
January 2, 2016 at 2:54 am
I wonder how many Hank Williams fans know that when Hank wrote Kaw Liga, he first offered it to Hank Snow, but Snow didn’t think it suited him, so Williams then recorded it, and it was a hit.
August 31, 2016 at 6:09 pm
“Along and Forsaken”!
August 31, 2016 at 6:10 pm
“Alone and Forsaken*! (stupid spell check)
August 31, 2016 at 7:33 pm
The Log Train (last song he performed live), Lost Highway, May You Never Be Alone, Weary Blues From Waiting, I Heard That Lonesome Whistle, Ramblin’ Man and Luke The Drifter material. Pictures From Life’s Other Side, Be Careful Of The Stones You Throw and all the restored WSM broadcast recordings like On Top Of Ol’ Smoky and old time southern gospel that still gives a chill and gladness too.
Andries van den Berg
August 31, 2016 at 8:54 pm
Why should we try anymore. . Really gives me shivers down my spine.
August 31, 2016 at 9:37 pm
I have a lot of hanks song 78’s cd’s 8 tracks 45’s 33 rd casetes I was 6 when he died I remember listening to him on radio when he made his debate on the opary
September 1, 2016 at 6:23 am
I learned to love Hank Williams through Leon Russell. He covered a bunch of his tunes on an album called Hank Wilson’s Back. Terrific. I would put “Settin the Woods on Fire” on this list. Can’t go wrong with any of Hank’s tunes.
September 1, 2016 at 10:15 am
I have been a fan of hank for as long as he has sung The song i would have put in the 20 is We Live IN Seperate Worlds My daughter was in The USA with the Appaloosa horse shows and bought me back a photo and a ticket he had singned many years before,
my treasure now
January 8, 2017 at 1:42 pm
“Weary Blues From Waitin’ ” . I had heard the song before, but when Polydor put out their Hank Collection, (on vinyl), and included the striped down version with just Hank and his guitar, man, it really hit me. Has the great line:
“Through tears I watch young lovers
as they go strolling by.
For all the things that might have been
Lord forgive me if I cry”.
I swear, the man is crying when he sings this.
January 8, 2017 at 11:12 pm
i am a steel guitar player and i play all of hanks songs i just let that steel wind just like hank would of loved it.
October 18, 2018 at 6:22 pm
I have ass these great songs on my Hank Williams albums
He was and still us the greatest with me and thoysands of people in order for me to listen to the 20 songs you
Here have my name Is Lawrence Madore I have been a Hank willians fan sinse I was 6 in 1950 but I have only heard him on radio I was born country so and I’ll die country well so lone folks old Hank’s radio endind after each show if the good Lord’s willin’ and the creeks don’t rise we’ll see you again I also quite a few of his songs on karaoke p.s. Iam 74 years old
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